Today's Qs for O's WH - 8/13/2009

JAKE TAPPER: Polls indicate that the American people are not -- or a plurality of the American people are not with the president on health care reform. He's obviously trying to change that by campaigning. ROBERT GIBBS: Well, I don't want to quibble with -- I mean, again, I think... TAPPER: A majority of the American people are not with the president on health care reform, the bill that -- the legislation he's trying to get through Congress. How would you say it? GIBBS: Well, I think if you look at -- I think, not to mix networks here, but (pointing to Chuck Todd of NBC) I think if -- I think your poll read... CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: They disapproved -- more people disapproved of the president's handling of health care than approved, which I think is what Jake was talking about. GIBBS: OK, that's clarified the question, because the reason I was quibbling with the phrasing of the question -- not to get into the phrasing of polling -- but in your poll, if you asked, just straight up, here's what health care reform -- here's what you get, here's what it costs, what -- the number was 58/38, something like that. TAPPER: Right. Theoretically, they're with what you think you're pushing, what you say you're pushing, but they're not with the president. GIBBS: I don't know if it's theoretical, but -- go ahead. TAPPER: The polls aren't where you want them to be. Would you quibble with that? GIBBS: On some of those questions, I would not quibble with it. TAPPER: OK…. Why not? Why aren't they working? GIBBS: Why are they -- why do I not agree? TAPPER: No. If the president is pushing for something that -- that the American people when you poll independently support... GIBBS: Right. TAPPER: ... why are they not with the president? GIBBS: Look, I think part of it is some of these misconceptions. I don't doubt that. I think they're -- I do think people have questions. I think that's why -- I mean, the president isn't out doing town hall meetings just for his health. I mean, he wants to -- I think he understands the need to address concerns or misconceptions out there. I think -- again, I think the president, whether it's the NBC poll, certainly other polling will demonstrate that people want to see health care reform this year. They want to see legislation that cuts costs. They want to see legislation that provides accessibility of coverage, that has insurance reforms. And that's what the president will continue to talk. TAPPER: Is the fact that the American people are not with the president right now -- does that indicate that this pushback, whether it's the viral e-mail you guys sent out today, or the reality check Web site you set up or whatever, does it indicate that you're pushback is late? GIBBS: I don't think so. Again, I -- I -- largely because your question was based on polling -- polling is a snapshot in time. It's -- the debate continues and we'll see whether numbers move or change as a result of the continuing debate. BILL PLANTE, CBS NEWS: But doesn't the fact that you've started pushing back indicate that your realize that the initiative is in trouble? GIBBS: Well, one of the reasons we've pushed back is because of those misconceptions. Have some of those misconceptions contributed to the poll numbers? I -- I don't doubt that. But at the same time, I mean, there's a little cause and effect here, but we're not going to stop pushing back on the misconceptions. Whether or not the polling shows one thing or another, the president, again, strongly believes that, and has for years, that it's -- it's better to address what people's concerns are and taken them on head on. TAPPER: Can I just ask one more question? I'm sorry. The PhRMA deal -- there's been some confusion, I think, about what exactly the White House has agreed to with Big Pharma, what they have not agreed to. Could you clarify what it is, exactly, that the White House has signed off on, whether or not you feel that the Senate Finance Committee and Senator Baucus were up front with you guys about what he agreed to? And also do you think that this was done -- whatever deal this was, was this done that was done in keeping with the transparency that then- candidate Obama promised?

GIBBS: Yes. Well, we had a little -- let me take the last part of that. I think the question a few days ago, something similar to this, which is, we discussed bringing people to the table. We discussed making sure that stakeholders that are involved in health care are part of an agreement. Look, you can't -- you're not going to get health care legislation without involving the hospitals, without involving those that provide medications, without talking to groups that represent doctors or patients or seniors, nurses, what have you. And we've talked a little bit about the PhRMA deal. You know, the Finance Committee and PhRMA agreed to $80 billion in cost savings, part of which goes to fill the doughnut hole for seniors as part of Medicare Part D, which I think we all know is, at a certain point coverage -- coverage for the purchase of those drugs stops until you basically reach a catastrophic level and the coverage kicks back in. Then some of the -- some of that additional savings would be used for health care…. TAPPER: But PhRMA said -- PhRMA said that the deal was $80 billion, that's it. No more. They can't give any more. Yet, in Portsmouth, the president said that maybe you could get more.

GIBBS: Well, maybe you could get more savings as a result of health care reform. I do not believe that the president meant we could take an $80 billion agreement and make it $95 billion. I have -- I've been fairly clear on that from here. I think as a result of the change in health care you can see health care costs and drug costs driven down. That's not to say we were reopening anything.


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